Becky had her jumping lesson today. I went to see the tail end of it and afterwards Becky told me that when she had been getting Col ready to load at home, Little Love had wandered around the yard loose, without a halter (I love that Becky lets her do this because I know it's quite empowering for Little Love). After eating grass next to the trailer, she had walked over to it, and checked it out. Becky had gotten a carrot and asked her if she wanted to come in. Little Love had put her front feet on the ramp and had stood there for a long moment, but then backed off. Becky said she really looked like she thought about it and having no halter, no lead rope, it really had been her choice at that point. She had chosen not to go in.
I was happy to hear that Little Love was taking initiative to investigate the trailer on her own. This was initially what I had wanted her to do, when I was thinking of a way of getting the trailer into the arena. But hey, it works in the yard, too, I guess.
When Becky got back from the riding lesson, we put the horses outside in the paddock for a while (they were overjoyed to see each other again) so we could clean the stalls. When I was done, I took Little Love around the barn to look at open trailer. I had some grain in a bucket, as a motivator and reward. I'm not feeding her much grain these days, so when she gets it, it's a treat. She had her rope halter on with a long rope, which I just let hang loose. We walked up to the trailer. I had decided to control my mind and not let any negative thoughts surface. Instead, I focused on picturing Little Love inside the trailer eating the grain and then walking out the front. And that is exactly what happened! She followed me in without a moments of hesitation, stopped when I stopped, ate the grain and then followed me out. Just. Like. That. I couldn't believe it, my horse was in the trailer! No stress, no emotions running high (hers nor mine), no anxiety. We were both perfectly relaxed.
Obviously I stopped there. I immediately took Little Love back through the barn to the paddock and opened the back gate so the horses could go to the grass pasture. Then I did a little victory dance \o/
So, now I know she can go into the trailer without being highly stressed. Okay, there is still much more to this puzzle than going in and walking through. She will also need to come in when other people are around (she gets nervous about people behind because she knows they will shut her in) stand still, let us close the bars in front and back (not to mention doors) and stay calm while driving. But - this is a MILESTONE. Yay.
I know I need to do this again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And as I'm doing it, I need to be very careful of my own expectations. Littie Love may not go into the trailer tomorrow. Which is fine. But if she does go in, we will just repeat what we did today. Until she is ready for the next step.